CEO 91-10 -- March 7, 1991
DISCLOSURE OF GIFTS PROVIDED TO CITY COMMISSIONER
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
An elected public officer is not required to amend her gift disclosure form for the calendar year ending December 31, 1989, to include Civic Center tickets she received from the Civic Center Authority, where the value of no one set of tickets exceeded $100. Nor would parking privileges she received from the Municipal Airport have to be reported where the value of parking did not exceed $100 for any one occasion. Money she received from her fiance as reimbursement for his portion of living expenses when he lived in her house need not be reported as it was not related to her official public service. Finally, a trip which she took as Mayor which served a valid public purpose and which was paid for by another governmental entity, would not have to be reported. CEO 90-72 and CEO 90-73 are referenced.
Are you, a City Commissioner, required to amend your Form 7 for the calendar year ending December 31, 1989, to disclose as gifts the following items: tickets to events at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center; parking at the Tallahassee Municipal Airport; reimbursement for living expenses from your fiance; and a trip paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts taken by you in your capacity as Mayor?
Your question is answered in the negative as to each item.
In your letter of inquiry, you advise that you serve as a member of the Tallahassee City Commission. During calendar year 1989, you received several items from various entities. You did not list these items as gifts when you filed your Form 7 for that year, because you were not sure whether any of these items were considered to be gifts which you were required to disclose. You question whether you should amend your Form 7 to include these items.
Specifically, you, as well as each other member of the City Commission and County Commission, receive free tickets to almost all events at the Civic Center. Both agencies are members of the Civic Center Authority Board. You relate that the face value of no one set of tickets for any one event exceeds $100, but the value of tickets received for any given year does exceed $100.
You, as a City Commissioner, also received free parking at the Tallahassee Municipal Airport. You question whether parking privileges received during calendar year 1989 should be disclosed.
Also during 1989, you received from your fiance his portion of living expenses for a period during early 1988 when he shared your residence. You advise that he did not contribute to your expenses or those of your family.
Finally, you relate that as Mayor, you took a trip in 1989 for the Mayor's Institute for City Design. Eight mayors were invited on this tour of urban design, and all expenses were paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts. You indicate that you took this trip on behalf of the City of Tallahassee, and the sole purpose of the trip was to serve the public interests of the City.
Gift disclosure by elected public officers and certain appointed officers at the time you received these items was governed by the following provision:
Each elected public officer and each appointed public officer who is required by law, pursuant to s. 8, Art. II of the State Constitution, to file a full and public disclosure of his financial interests shall file a statement containing a list of all contributions received by him or on his behalf, if any, and expenditures from, or disposition made of, such contributions by such officer which are not otherwise required to be reported by chapter 106, with the names and addresses of persons making such contributions or receiving payment or distribution from such contributions and the dates thereof. The statement shall be sworn to by the elected public officer as being a true, accurate, and total listing of all such contributions and expenditures. [Section 112.3148(2)(a), Florida Statutes (1989).]
For purposes of this disclosure requirement, the term "contribution" is defined as follows:
'Contribution' means any gift, donation, or payment of money the value of which is in excess of $100 to any public officer or to any other person on the public officer's behalf. Any payment in excess of $100 to a dinner, barbeque, fish fry, or other such event shall likewise by deemed a 'contribution.' However, a gift representing an expression of sympathy and having no material benefit or a bona fide gift to the officeholder by a relative within the third degree of consanguinity for the personal use of the officeholder shall not be deemed a 'contribution.' This section does not apply to complimentary parking privileges bestowed upon a legislator by an airport authority, or to honorary memberships in social, service, or fraternal organizations presented to an elected public officer merely as a courtesy by such organizations. [Section 112.3148(1)(c), Florida Statutes (1989).]
Please note that Chapter 90-502, Laws of Florida, which became law on January 1, 1991, substantially revised State law regarding gifts, honoraria, and expenses related to honoraria-type events. Therefore, we will address your inquiry applying the law that was in effect at the time the items were given. You should be cautioned that our opinion may not be appropriate with regard to items received by you in the future, so you may wish to request another opinion from this Commission if you are unsure of the status of items received by you during future reporting periods.
With regard to the Civic Center tickets and parking privileges at the Municipal Airport, we are of the view that you were not required to aggregate the value of the tickets and parking privileges received by you over the course of the year and report these items as gifts on your disclosure form for the calendar year ending December 31, 1989, if their value exceeded $100, although you may if you so desire. The basis for this position is an opinion rendered by the Attorney General in 1976, when he was charged with interpreting the gift disclosure requirements of Section 111.011, Florida Statutes. As noted in CEO 90-72, the reporting requirements contained in Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes (1989), formerly were contained in Section 111.011, Florida Statutes, and when the Attorney General's opinion was rendered in 1976, the reporting limit for gifts was $25. In 1988, the reporting threshold was increased to $100.
In construing Section 111.011, Florida Statutes, the Attorney General opined in AGO 76-58 that he was "unable to categorically state that continuing contributions of less than $25 each must be reported under s. 111.011, F.S." However, he also suggested that reporting officials who received continuing contributions of amounts less than the reporting threshold may want to report the contributions "even though such does not appear to be required by the terms of the statute." We are aware of no other opinion or judicial decision interpreting this provision. We also note that when the Legislature amended Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes, in November, 1990, it provided for a gift to be valued on a per occurrence basis. Chapter 90-502, Laws of Florida. Given the earlier opinion and the later legislative expression in conformity with that opinion, we conclude that you should list the Civic Center tickets only when their value exceeded $100 per occurrence and the parking privileges only when the value of that privilege exceeded $100 per occurrence.
Concerning the living expenses you received in 1989 from your then-fiance who shared your residence for a short period in early 1988, we do not consider this item to be a gift, and it would not be necessary to list on your Form 7 the amount you received from him as a gift. In CEO 90-72 and CEO 90-73, we concluded that trips that were not related to an official's public service were not gifts which require disclosure. Under the rationale of those opinions, it does not appear that living arrangements and the sharing of household expenses between a public official and her fiance are related to the official's public service. Therefore, we conclude that this item need not be reported.
Finally, the trip you took as Mayor where your expenses were paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts, and which you indicate served the public interests of the City, would not have to be disclosed as a gift. In CEO 90-72 and CEO 90-73, it was our consensus that trips which served a valid public purpose, paid for by the official's agency or another governmental entity, need not be disclosed as a gift. The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent Federal agency, established pursuant to P.L. 89-209 (September 29, 1967), as amended, and codified at 20 U.S.C.S. 954. As the urban design trip was paid for in its entirety by a governmental entity and served a valid public purpose, it would not have to be disclosed.
Accordingly, you are not required to amend the gift disclosure form which you filed for the calendar year ending December 31, 1989, to include Civic Center tickets, Municipal Airport parking privileges, reimbursement by your fiance for his portion of household expenses, or a trip you took as Mayor which was paid for by the National Endowment for the Arts.